Monday, November 17, 2008
The NY Times is now breaking the story that Dan Rather's dismissal from CBS news was done in large response to Republican party pressure on the network.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the "60 Minutes" segment.
Can you imagine the uproar if the Democrats had pulled a similar stunt? Rigging an "unbiased" panel? Getting a prominent journalist fired to fulfill a political vendetta?
Any doubt that the Republican party can control and influence unfairly the broadcast of news and information to the American should vanish with this report.
Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled "Roger Ailes," the founder of Fox News.
Let us not forget that the Republican party made a 77 year-old man fight for his life to defend his honor and the reputation he built as a professional journalist. Dan Rather is a hero of American journalism who proved his mettle on multiple occasions.
And let us not forget that the Republican party will continue to have the power to destroy the careers of journalists who dare to question their tactics, their methodology, and their corrupt politicians. Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, hell, ANYONE who doesn't even stand in their way but merely asks questions will be targeted.
The story is a must read from a newspaper that has, itself, had its credentials questioned.
Updated Let us also not forget that Bush himself said such a tactic would be reminiscent of Putin's Russia:
But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."
And watch how Time also tried to "laugh" off the whole thing:
The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later, during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed had been orchestrated. The odd episode reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides.
Update 2: Just to clarify a couple of points that have been brought up in the comments below.
- I'm not saying Dan Rather is a paragon of journalistic virtuosity. Just that the man worked his tail off for decades, did some damn good work at times, and didn't deserve this.
- I'm not saying that Democrats need to cower before the Right. Much the opposite. I'm saying that we need to remain vigilant against this type of action. As Slinkerwink noted below, WaPo's omsbudsman is continuing to push this nonsense about the "liberal media" and is asking for a litmus test.
I guess what I'm saying is, just because Obama won doesn't mean they won't stop being dirty. If anything, it means they will step up their game. Are we afraid? No. But neither should we be content to rest on our laurels.